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Although there may be no simple answer to the question— “When is the right time to start therapy?”—exploring the question may yield some interesting answers.
The short answer is: There is no “right time” to start therapy for everybody. That said, however, it’s worth noting that you don’t necessarily need until a crisis hits to start working with a counselor. If you’ve ever been curious about when it might be the right time to go to therapy, here is a general list to help you guide your decision making.
- Self-Improvement. Some people may start therapy because they have a general interest in improving themselves. Unfortunately, there may still be some stigma about seeing a therapist. But going to therapy isn’t just for the acutely mentally ill, but for everyday people who may simply want to better themselves (think of it as the gym for your behaviors/emotional regulation, etc. On the other hand, some people may think they have to wait until a crisis until seeking out a therapist. Such people may wait until a divorce, unemployment or some other time where they face adversity. And, although a person can start therapy any time, why wait until a crisis to start creating the psychological tools that may help you improve your life? Therapy helps individuals sort out their lives even in non-crisis times.
- Crisis. This may be the number one reason why people seek out therapty. A person may face a personal crisis . . . a divorce, unemployment, a death in the family, and that may be the catalyst for them to seek out a therapist. As noted in the beginning, it is ultimately up to the individual to choose when to start therapy, but waiting until a crisis begins will, perhaps, not create instant solutions.
- Recovery. Finally, some individuals seek out therapy when they are in recovery. Consistent therapy sessions can aid in the recovery process by keeping those who need on the straight and narrow path. Part of therapy’s role in a situation like this is to build on the individual’s progress he or she has already made. Obviously, there’s no set time limit when a person is in recovery. This can occur over the span of weeks, months, or years.
- Self-Learning. Sometimes individuals seek out a therapist to learn more about themselves and others. The therapeutic process, in general, is insight oriented in that after therapy the person should hopefully have a clearer understanding of why the do (and think and feel) the things they do.
That famous quote holds true here: taking the first step toward getting help (or merely self-improvement) is often the hardest. Choosing to seek out therapy in a time of crisis is certainly better than not getting help at all . . . but many people may be unaware that they can seek out therapy for other reasons such as self-improvement, recovery, or for self-learning purposes as well. Finally, asking the question— “When is the right time to start therapy?”—may not yield the same answers for everyone, but asking the question to begin with is important, and you may find that the right time to start therapy is now.
Kenny Luck is an author and educator from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. A graduate of Marywood University in Scranton, PA, Luck holds a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science and graduated with a Master's Degree in Education from the same institution in 2010. He has written for local publications such as The Weekender. His published work includes: Thumbing Through Thoreau (2010), NEPATIZED (2011), and 101 Facts of Love (2014). Luck has worked in public relations and media, and has taught college-level writing courses at several colleges and universities around Northeastern Pennsylvania. In 2010, he was voted "Best Author" by Electric City readers.